Massage Benefits for Hospitalized Children

By Pacific College - September 12, 2014
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By Alex Kecskes

A study conducted at University of Miami Medical School in Florida revealed that massage may offer considerable benefits for children suffering from stress-related disorders. A 30-minute back massage was given daily for a 5-day period to 52 children who were hospitalized due to depression and adjustment disorders. Subjective assessments were made by the children themselves and by the nurses based upon perceived anxiety levels, sleep patterns and the willingness of the child to be co-operative. Objective analyses were also made by evaluating stress hormone levels in both the urine and saliva. The results were then compared to a control group who were shown relaxing videotapes for 30 minutes instead of massage therapy. The results of the massage benefits for hospitalized children were quick to see.

Massage therapy for hospitalized children.

Study results revealed that the children receiving a 30-minute massage were less depressed or anxious and had lower saliva cortisol levels after their massage. In addition, nurses rated the massage group as being more co-operative on the last day of the study, and noted that the children were not only sleeping better than the children in the control group, but that that their night-time sleep had increased over the 5-day period.

The Role of Specialists in Pediatric Massage Therapy

Tina Allen, founder of the children’s health and nurturing touch organization, Liddle KidzT Foundation, and internationally respected educator, author and expert in the field of infant and pediatric massage therapy, has appeared on NBC, The Learning Channel’s “Bringing Home Baby”, KCET, and PBS’ “A Place of Our Own.”

Allen understands the varied physical and emotional needs of hospitalized and medically complex infants, children and their families. As a volunteer, she has provided massage to individuals with advanced HIV/AIDS, children with special needs and senior citizens at the end of life. Most recently, as Director of the Children’s Program for The Heart Touch Project, she provided specialized education and inspiration for massage therapists committed to addressing the needs of medically challenged infants and children who are hospitalized or in hospice care. She developed pediatric massage programs at Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, as well as developed a program focusing on introducing gentle compassionate touch to women and children who have survived domestic abuse.

Case Studies: Real-Life Benefits of Pediatric Massage

Asked how the medical profession has accepted massage therapy for helping hospitalized children, Allen replied,” Before beginning any program for children in the hospital, there is a large educational component for the healthcare faculty. This can be from as little as explaining the type of massage used to actually providing a demonstration for the healthcare team. Once they understand the pediatric massage treatment, reviewed the literature and witness a session, they understand the massage benefits for hospitalized children and are very willing to work with you to offer these services to more children in their facility. Over time, I hope to see massage therapy as a regularly prescribed form of treatment for all children who can benefit from this nurturing touch.”

Asked how her treatments have helped others, Allen offered this example, “In one instance I was working with a 2-year old girl diagnosed with Retinoblastoma (cancer of the eye) and she had been visiting the hospital every three weeks for procedures. Children with Retinoblastoma are put under anesthesia every time they visit the hospital, even for something as simple as an eye exam. When I provided her with massage therapy prior to her procedure, she demonstrated much less anxiety, which I did expect; however, in the recovery room, she woke up much more relaxed, especially when her mother was taught to immediately comfort her by gently stroking her back.”

Allen then recalled another instance, “A 14-year old girl undergoing rehabilitative treatments for Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis in her legs had difficulty sleeping and was very uncomfortable. During her massage treatment, she reported feeling much more relaxed and much of her pain had diminished. After her session, I learned from the nursing staff, and the child’s parents, that she slept for a long time, which in the words of her father, ‘provided her with the medicine she needed to heal.'”

Allen will be returning to Bangkok Thailand for two weeks to help instruct caregivers and parents responsible for over 600 children.

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